Ellen and Portia announced on their social media account that they were in Zimbabwe and having fun visiting a national park. I had conflicting emotions when I saw it. It’s nice to see queer couples having fun. But jealousy and anger were not too far away.
I think I should start from what it is like to live as a queer person. I mean, forget living as an openly queer person in public, even accepting my sexuality took a long time. Because of the way that “homosexuality” is talked about in places of faith and the media, the reality is that many of us go through major ordeals to accept ourselves. Watching Ellen and Portia live the dream of so many queer Africans – the dream of living openly and freely in an African country – brings about conflicting emotions.
Even when you have accepted yourself as a queer person, you are constantly and in various ways reminded that it is sinful and an abomination. Although it is possible to live and completely accept yourself, it would be a lie to say that we do not care about these hateful conversations and comments; it is unfortunate that others who live in the same country as you can make you feel stateless. I am often reminded of the Ride driver who, for the entirity of the trip, passiontely talked about the “spread of homosexuality” while I sat there unable to defend myself. Were Ellen and Portia subjected to these unsolicited hate speech? Watching Ellen and Portia live the dream of so many queer Africans – the dream of living openly and freely in an African country – brings about conflicting emotions.
Let’s say you start a romantic relationship. … Forget lovingly gazing at each other and holding hands while taking pictures like Ellen and Portia. If only we could freely sit close together with our lovers. My romantic relationships have made me police myself. … I sit in a restaurant with my blover and I keep looking from left to right as if I am a police officer guarding the city. … I check my every move. … Are we sitting too close to each other? … Are we gazing lovingly at each other? … Can people tell that we are lovers? … Endless questions and fears. Even in my own home, my freedom is not a hundred percent. I have read of so many queers who were killed in African countries because of their queernes. … I have seen the story of many Africans who have been raped because they are a lesbian or bisexual on various news and social media campaigns. What guarantees do I have that I will not be next? Watching Ellen and Portia live the dream of so many queer Africans – the dream of living openly and freely in an African country – brings about conflicting emotions.
You need to plan a lot of things before you can even consider getting out of town with your partner. If my partner and I tell the hotel receptionist that we are related, would they rent us a double bedroom? Should we request for two separate beds just to be extra safe? Or should we request a twin bedroom just so they won’t suspect anything? The questions never end. As soon as you arrive at the hote where you hope to relax, you are greeted with a sign that says “It is illegal for two people of the same sex to share a bed”. Once you have rented a room, you double check to make sure the doors and windows are locked. You even restrict yourself and have to be extra cautious to make sure you don’t make any noise while you are having sex. If you could, you would prefer to sit on your partner’s lap as you eat breakfast. Or you wish you could play with your partner’s hair while lovingly gazing at each other as you eat … but you are forced to sit apart as if you are two colleagues at a work retreat as you talk at a reduced volume about your evening. I will never forget the day a hotel cleaner, who did not know that the room was occupied, used her master key to enter the room where I was staying. I remember thinking and worrying the whole day wondering what it would have been like had I been with a lover. Ellen and Portia are free from all these worries … Watching Ellen and Portia live the dream of so many queer Africans – the dream of living openly and freely in an African country – brings about conflicting emotions.
The most amazing thing is the fact that none of the patriotic Africans responded to Ellen and Portia’s photo with hateful messages. Although I don’t think they would be worried by hateful messages on social media given their lifestyle and how well known they are, I was happy that there were no hateful messages. While it is not surprising to see the welcome response, it is still amazing. In addition, there were many who made suggestions about other places they could see. And some still invited Ellen and Portia to come to their country after their visit to Zimbabwe.
The African who is ready to kill and rape his own people in the cruelest ways possible for being queer enthusiastically welcomes Ellen and Portia just because they are white and rich. How does one make sense of this? Indeed, watching Ellen and Portia live the dream of so many queer Africans – the dream of living openly and freely in an African country – brings about conflicting emotions.